Between securing global Internet trafficking routes and writing three theses throughout his education, Professor of Computer Science Matthew Lepinski developed an interest in teaching. Lepinski, who got his doctorate in computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), worked with BBN Technologies for almost nine years as a research scientist in cybersecurity.
“New College is different from anywhere I’ve been so far but I’ve been really impressed by the students here,” Lepinski said. “I really like the idea of professors working with students on projects and building collaborations so that was one of the things that attracted me to New College. I have a broad interest so what I like about New College is there’s an opportunity to teach a variety of classes.”
This semester, Lepinski is teaching two courses: Computer Networks and Introduction to Programming with Python. Python is a computing language useful for organizing data-heavy tasks. One of Lepinski’s goals for this class is simply for each student to learn how to talk like a computer scientist.
“I want the students to be amazed at how much goes on under the hood in order to make the Internet work every day,” Lepinski said.
Lepinski has always loved mathematics. When he was younger, he was interested in artificial intelligence and game playing. “I made a modified version of Space Invaders once,” he said. “I thought that there should be more types of lasers that you could shoot so I modified it to add a variety of different guns.”
During his time working at BBN Technologies, a small research and development firm, Lepinski got involved in the network security group and worked with teams on prototyping for new security technologies.
“BBN is strongly associated with MIT as it was actually started by some MIT professors back in the 50s,” Lepinski explained. “They were early pioneers in the Internet and I actually had the pleasure to work with Ray Tomlinson at BBN, who was the guy who wrote the first email program and chose the @ sign. Ray is now semi-retired and he raises sheep.”
Last spring, Lepinski co-taught Politics of the Digital Age at the University of Tampa with his wife, Liv Coleman. “It was a good joint class because I was able to talk about how the Internet works and then my wife was able to talk about the implication of the Internet for politics and social movements.”
Lepinski expressed interest in holding a seminar-style course about the Internet’s effect on the social sciences.
“I would love to have the opportunity to have a tutorial of sorts to talk to non-technical students about what is the Internet and how does it work,” Lepinski said. “How the Internet changes over time is something that’s really interesting to me, I’m also interested in starting a project relating to security for mobile applications.”
As someone who wrote an undergraduate thesis, Lepinski talked about the benefits of the thesis requirement here at New College. “One of the most valuable things with writing an undergraduate thesis is just to get hands-on experience with problems that aren’t very well defined or well scoped,” Lepinski said. “The thesis gives an open ended, amorphous problem and you have to use the tools you’ve built up in your undergraduate career to figure out what kind of analysis, what type of problem solving works for this problem and that’s a very valuable real life experience.”